By Neil Bennett | on November 02, 2000
Price When Reviewed: £679 plus VAT
DVDit PE 2.0 is the professional edition of Sonic Solution’s top-selling desktop DVD creator, which has been around for a while in its SE (standard edition) and LE (limited edition) forms. DVDit SE and LE were recently updated to version 2.0 – and PE adds a whole extra layer of tools for professional use. Before you expect too much, however, remember that this is still DVDit, not DVD Creator (Sonic’s next step-up product with a price tag in the thousands not hundreds of pounds). It’s still largely an encoding product with a basic front end, requiring you to do most of the creation work in other applications. With a single exception, PE allows you to work with just a better grade of media. The exception is that DVDit! PE lets you create DVDs with up to 99 nested menus, whereas SE can only work with ten (and LE with one). DVDs are created by adding video clips to menus and using buttons to tie the menus together. Each menu would include buttons and links to video clips, as well as to audio and other multimedia. A standard movie DVD would include a main menu with the central film, with other menus linking to behind-the-scenes images and audio commentaries. DVDit expects you to create almost all of the media outside the application – wisely, it doesn’t try to replicate the functions of your usual applications. Video clips need to be put together in your conventional editing application, and backgrounds drawn and manipulated in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. On top of being a media stitcher and encoder, DVDit offers basic effects tools for bringing media onto the background, say in response to a button click, in a way even a £50 editing package could replicate. There’s also basic titling and captioning tools which, while not terrible, certainly aren’t going to get Inscriber worried. The majority of what DVDit PE adds to the product line is the ability to work with higher-quality media. PE works with widescreen video (16:9 aspect ratio) and can output Dolby Digital Audio from any audio format input. For users working at the level of corporate video upwards, DVDit PE also adds support for DLT (digital linear tape) drives. These back-up drives, although slow to write to, provide an affordable solution to sending the full data for a DVD to a commercial duplication house, and as such have become the standard media. This is an important addition for users who want to produce more than a few copies of their work. Sonic seems to be trying to draw a line between it products: aiming LE at the average user as a step up from PowerPoint; SE at the high-end PowerPoint user, and PE at the corporate video producer/editor. However, the few features that differentiate the SE and PE user do not seem to justify almost doubling the price (SE retails for £349 plus VAT). There are likely to be few users at the DVDit level that need to use 16:9 video and Dolby Digital audio. If you’re after that quality of DVD, you’re probably producing the kind of materials that need the rest of the tools that DVD Creator has to offer. DLT support is something that anyone who wants to commercially duplicate their work will need, and as such is irrelevant to the SE user. The expansion of available menus from ten to 99 also fits with the growth in complexity from presentation production to the creation of anything from training materials to video-enhanced product catalogues. Sonic has done a very good job of creating three different versions that perfectly match their target audiences – but on features alone the price difference between SE and PE is far too much. With almost no competition to DVDit on the market though, if you need PE’s extra features then you’re just going to have to pay for it. What’s most annoying about the lack of new features in PE is that when it was announced at the NAB show in April, the feature set was a whole lot larger. Cool-sounding concepts that have gone missing between then and now include tools for creating Web-enhanced eDVDs, an MPEG-2-based Web streaming format called Streaming DVD, multiple audio streams on the same disc (for example, for multi-language discs) and Dolby Digital audio from any other format. These have now been delayed until DVDit PE 3.0, due early next year. Other features that were trumpeted at the announcement of DVDit PE are here, but they’re also available in SE. These include a chapter point editor for easy creation of navigation points for end users in long pieces of video, as found in conventional DVD movies, and support for cDVD. cDVD is a new format that creates small DVDs on conventional CD-R discs using a conventional CD-R or CD-RW drive. With the player burned onto on every cDVD disc alongside the video, the discs can be watched on any computer with a CD-ROM drive. The limitations are that they can hold only around 20 minutes of video and Macs can’t currently read cDVDs. However, they’re much cheaper to reproduce than standard DVDs. With features like this, version 2.0 of the DVDit family as a whole is an excellent update. It’s just the professional edition that’s an overpriced disappointment.